Bradford City 0
Millwall 1 (Morison 86)
May 2017 | Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final | Wembley Stadium | Saturday 20 May 2017
City were ultimately left having to face a gut-wrenching end to the campaign at the home of football on Saturday afternoon. Stuart McCall’s side bossed the first half in large parts and Billy Clarke was denied a goal by a fantastic one-handed save from Jordan Archer. Millwall came into the contest more and more as the second half grew and Steve Morison latched onto a Lee Gregory flick on at the death to give his side victory and promotion to the Championship.
Tony McMahon saw a shot go wide of the target in the opening exchanges after Mark Marshall had caused some problems down the right-hand side and then Morison saw a header on the stretch go wide after he’d latched onto Shaun Williams’ corner, one of a quickly increasing tally of corners throughout the first half.
Just before the quarter-hour mark, City spurned an absolutely gilt-edged chance to take the lead; the Bantams looked a real threat on the counter-attack and after Marshall had raced away down the left-hand side, he threaded the ball through to Billy Clarke who ran into the box towards goal and saw a deft chip tipped wide of the post by the fingertips of Jordan Archer.
It was all looking bright for City early on and Charlie Wyke chested the ball into the path of Billy Clarke who spread the ball wide to James Meredith who had come forward from left-back to get into the box; a cross was an option for the Australian defender but he opted for a thumping shot from a tight angle which was beaten away by Archer.
Clarke was looking lively in the opening stages despite his failure to take a big opportunity and after he had drawn a foul just outside the Millwall box, Tony McMahon saw his resulting free kick blocked bravely by the head of Shaun Hutchinson who made sure Archer’s goal was protected on this occasion.
McMahon had another couple of attempt before the half was out, both in the same move. Clarke played a corner out to the edge of the box towards the City defender and although his first attempt was blocked, he had another bite of the cherry but his second attempt was a tame one which squirmed a yard or so wide of the target.
Although Millwall upped their game in the second period, it was City who had the first attempt of the half shooting towards roughly 25,000 in claret and amber in the West side of the stadium. Nicky Law caused the problems before the ball broke to Meredith and he saw a firmly struck attempt blocked by a Millwall defender inside a crowded penalty area.
Before the hour mark, City had another chance and by now had had the two biggest chances in the game. After Aiden O’Brien had been booked for a rash challenge on Marshall, McMahon’s delivery to the far post was on the money but the hero of the semi-finals, Rory McArdle, could only head the ball over the bar when he had risen above Millwall’s Byron Webster.
A couple of minutes later Millwall had their best chance of the game up to then; Lee Gregory slipped the ball through to Jed Wallace and he ran through to face Colin Doyle in a one-on-one situation but fortunately for the Bantams, he saw a low shot go wide of the post.
McArdle connected once again with a McMahon free kick from the right-hand side, but he couldn’t get the truest of connections on the ball and saw a glancing header go wide of the target after Marshall was fouled by Millwall’s make-shift left-back Tony Craig.
In truth, McArdle had had an impressive display to help keep the shackles on Gregory and Morison and he had to make an important block from Morison inside the penalty area before reacting quickly to halt Gregory following an error from Romain Vincelot which had inadvertently sparked the Millwall attack.
Neil Harris’ side were cracking up the pressure shooting towards their own fans and Morison scored late on to spark delirium in the East side of the stadium. Substitute Shane Ferguson swung a cross into the box from the left-hand side which was helped on by Gregory into the path of Morison lurking inside the six-yard box to smash the ball into the roof of the net.
Time was against the Bantams as they looked to rescue themselves and force extra time and Josh Cullen fired a shot over the bar in desperation after the ball had broken free into his path. With literally seconds left on the clock, City found one more opportunity. The ball broke to McMahon in the box and at a tight angle he smashed the ball into the side netting before the final whistle was sounded.
Agony for one team and ecstasy for the other; unfortunately it is Bradford City left licking their wounds. Another season in League One beckons and surely, you would think, the Bantams will be back stronger.